Understanding vulnerability to poverty, COVID-19’s effects, and implications for social protection: insights from Ghana

Awuni, Evans Tindana / Daniele Malerba / Babette Never
External Publications (2023)

in: Progress in Development Studies 23 (3), 246-274

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14649934231162463

The Coronavirus pandemic has created new vulnerabilities and deepened existing ones. In Ghana, the overall headcount poverty decline has disguised a large group of vulnerable households now threatened with falling back into poverty given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article draws on new household panel data to analyse transient poverty, the drivers of vulnerability before and since the COVID-19 pandemic and provides implications for social protection. Using poverty transition matrices, we first measure poverty episodes which help to not only track the movements in and out of poverty but also to identify and categorize households into distinctive groups. We then apply logistic regression to examine the determinants of vulnerability to poverty before evaluating COVID-19 vulnerabilities in the context of social protection in Ghana. We find that a large group of struggling households exist between the poor and the stable middle classes that have been overlooked by cash transfer programmes. We characterize this group and show that current vulnerability measurements and social protection design need adjustments. We also find that poverty and vulnerability to it is no longer a rural phenomenon as the transient poor since the COVID-19 pandemic are mostly located in urban areas and largely not covered by current social protection systems. Both vertical and horizontal expansion of social policy is required to reach these new groups and new locations. For reducing poverty and limiting vulnerability in developing country contexts, our findings imply that (a) new measurements and targeting may be required, (b) vulnerable informal groups in urban areas need to be included, and (c) new types of social protection for struggling households are required to prevent their falling back into poverty in the event of aggregate shocks.

About the authors

Never, Babette

Political Scientist


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